In 1685, the elderly and aristocratic Dame Alice Lisle offered shelter in her home at Moyles Court to two men who had taken part in the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion and were now trying to flee the country after their defeat at Sedgemoor. This was discovered; not only were the men captured and killed, but Dame Alice herself was condemned to death as a traitor by the notorious Judge Jeffreys. He sentenced her to be beheaded; the execution took place in Winchester on 2 September, outside the Eclipse Inn, where Dame Alice spent her last night.
This much is history. Dame Alice’s fate is also recalled in local lore. Her ghost, it is said, is sometimes to be seen in the inn – a tall, quiet figure in a long grey dress, standing in the upstairs corridor. It used also to be said that she walked in the courtyard of her old home at Moyles Court, and drove through the lanes between Ellingham and Dibden, as she often did in her lifetime, since her favourite son lived at Dibden. She rode in a black coach drawn by headless horses, and carried her own head in her lap. One of the informants for a Women’s Institute survey of Hampshire villages in the 1930s recalled encountering it in childhood, but said the haunting seemed to have ceased by then:
One dark night when Mother and I was coming up Ellingham Lane, we heard wagon wheels a-rattlin’ behind us. ‘Run, child,’ says Mother, ‘run to the side-long by Ellingham cross, lane’s too narrer for it ter pass.’ So us ran, all of a trimble, to the side-long, and Mother said, ‘I allow t’will be Dame Lisle a-coming to Moyles from
Ellingham Churchyard.’ So ’twas – wagon passed us all a-rattling, drawed by four horses with never no heads and no driver, but inside wagon Dame Lisle was a-setting. Horses knowed their way and rattled ’cross high road and up backway to Moyles. She must have got there, for they do say she were heard along the passages o’ the house; and her high heels went tap-tap-tap and her silk dress went swish, swish, swish, agen the bare floorboards. But they don’t hear en nowadays. I allow it’s got sort o’ tired, wore out by time along.